Fall is my mom’s favorite time of the year. She pulls out her leaves, pumpkins, and scarecrows and decorates the house. It’s the beginning of her decorations that go through January. (September: fall and back to school; October: add pumpkins and scarecrows; November: add horn of plenty and pilgrims; December: put away fall and bring out snowmen and nativity scenes; January: put away Christmas but leave up snowmen) Probably because of this background, when the weather turns rainy and cool, I want to go inside and curl up with candles and a warm fire. It’s this weather that calls to me for family nights.
Family Movie Night
I remember these as far back as fifth grade–around the same time I remember my first presidental election, Jimmy Carter vs Ronald Reagan. The one I remember most vividly was when my parents went to the library and checked out a film projector and a film. With our invited friends, we sat around the living room and watched Winnie the Pooh and Tiger. As I got married, movie nights shifted to Saturday nights. We’d still have friends over during our college years. The credits would roll and in the dark a pillow would be thrown, hence starting the traditional pillow fight. This custom continued through our kids’ high school years. Just this Friday night, we watched Captain America: Civil War. Instead of a pillow fight, a wrestling match broke out.
Family Night Food
Mom’s famous family night food was homemade pizza. She taught us kids how to make it. Her secret? Cheese. “You can never have too much cheese on pizza.”
Besides cheese, we’d load it up with hamburger, olives, and mushrooms. Another favorite family night food was to roast hot dogs and s’mores in the wood stove. We’d have a picnic or campout in the living room when the weather outside was less than desirable for camping.
Family Game Night
My sixth grade year, my family moved to Iowa in the middle of the school year. That meant we were there just in the nick of time for one of their worst winters! School was for three to four day weekends regularly for around a month. That gave us kids ample time to get in Mom’s way. The solution, which eventually became the problem, was to have the three of us sit around the stove in the living room wrapped up in blankets and play Monopoly. However, when you have a 12 year old, 9 year old, and a 17 year old playing Monopoly, soon there are arguments. Mom said later she was ready to get rid of the game. To this day, I still know there are ten stops between Go and Just Visiting Jail. There are ten spaces between each railroad. And the best way to win is to have St. James’ Place, Illinois Ave, and Baltic Ave all with hotels on them.
About fifteen years ago or so, we began having game days with some younger friends. They’d come over on Friday or Saturday nights or after church on Sunday. We’d play role-playing games like Star Wars or card games like Unexploded Cow (which you can download for free), or even board games like Settlers of Catan. As the kids grew up, they soon were joining us. Scrabble and Settler’s of Catan are still some of our favorite games. We’ve added Munchkin to the list, but only if there’s someone playing with us who knows all the rules. It’s easier that way.
Family Beach Night
Living on the Oregon Coast has influenced our activities as a family. Going to the beach is a viable option whenever we want or the weather permits. Sometimes even when the weather doesn’t permit! We’ve been to Cape Blanco with the wind blowing hard enough the boys are leaning at a 45% angle. We also enjoy finding the waves when they’re splashing and getting epic photos of it. It was on a calm, beautiful night that we walked the beach in April while I processed the news that my publisher was going out of business.
Our most recent trip to the beach was this past weekend. While my husband is adventurous and my kids have picked it up, I’m more level-headed. I have a distinct reverence for the water. I’ve been knocked around in the surf and have the scars on my chin to prove it. So, the usual scenario is for the kids and my husband to go traipsing off to the rocks and I stay and watch at a safe distance. Yesterday was different.
We followed the path around to a spot where the railing stopped and the cliffs became steps of solid rock heading down to the surf crashing on the final step. The family blithely ran for the water, while I took the safer route and longer route. I enjoyed finding a way where I wouldn’t have to climb much. Just as I reached a spot where I could see and enjoy their fun, I saw something from my nightmares!
I found myself in a beach house with two story high windows facing the surf. I looked out enjoying the ebb and flow. Without warning, a wave approached, one that would be larger than anything I could handle! The water kept building and growing until it crested on top of the house and crashed through the windows. Terror siezed my heart as I frantically swam trying to find a way to the surface. Then I awoke!
This reoccurring nightmare evolved over time to include first my husband and then my kids. Saturday afternoon, that style of wave approached–one that would be too big to outrun and that would soak my kids. I watched helpless as they were pummeled by not only the spray but also the wave. To my relief, the wave receeded and my sons stood back up smiles stretching their faces. “Did you see that?!” Adreneline surged and before long they were back waiting for another wave to crash in front of them. I enjoyed watching the surges and calling out warnings as they stood invincible to the spray. No other wave reached the same size and impact as that first one. After an hour, we finally called it quits and walked back to the car. I was the only dry person in the group.
Family nights are fun times to be together. It’s even better when your teenage son pleads to have one. What do you do as a family? Any special foods? I’d love to hear your ideas.